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Doctor Copernicus [Paperback]

John Banville
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Aug 2010

‘Banville is superb . . . there are not many historical novels of which it can be said that they illuminate both the time that forms their subject matter and the time in which they are read: Doctor Copernicus is among the very best of them’ The Economist

The work of Nicholas Koppernigk, better known as Copernicus, shattered the medieval view of the universe and led to the formulation of the image of the solar system we know today. Here his life is powerfully evoked in a novel that offers a vivid portrait of a man of painful reticence, haunted by a malevolent brother and baffled by the conspiracies that rage around him and his ideas while he searches for the secret of life.

‘Banville writes novels of complex patterning, with grace, precision and timing’ Guardian

‘With his fastidious wit and exquisite style, John Banville is the heir to Nabokov’ Daily Telegraph

‘A tour de force: a fictional evocation of the great astronomer which is exciting, beautifully written and astonishingly redolent of the late medieval world’ The Times


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (6 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330372343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330372343
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 366,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fifteen novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. He lives in Dublin.

Product Description

About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fourteen other novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. He has received a literary award from the Lannan Foundation. He lives in Dublin.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Piece of Writing 12 Nov 2002
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
This is the second work by Mr. John Banville I have read. The first was said by critics to be "the finest" introduction to this Author's work. I have now completed, "Doctor Copernicus", and can state it is immeasurably better. I have also started his work, "Kepler" and it shows all the same talent that Copernicus held.

Mr. Banville has at his command a wide scope of knowledge together with the talent to know when to put it to use. He places the thoughts of other noted thinkers within his story, so that they are seamless, as opposed to sound bite flourishes. The thoughts of Soren, Kierkegaard, Albert Einstein, and Max Planck all join the writings of Dr. Copernicus, all assembled by Mr. Banville, as needed, appropriate, and without pretense.

Science is too often presented in a manner that the layperson is discouraged from pursuing the information. Historical fiction certainly should not be the only source for fact-finding, but when handled as well as this Author presents the material; it's accessible for anyone that is inquisitive. Copernicus's idea of Heliocentricity, the Elliptical Orbits of the Planets, which is dealt with humorously, and all the trials of defining new science are both readable and enjoyable. Particularly well presented was the whole concept of how theories and published material was viewed by the Scientists in the 16th Century. Did Copernicus believe that his explanation was in fact a picture of reality, or that what he documented merely agreed with what he observed? Sounds a bit dry, but the writing is brilliant.

The last 19 pages entitled, "Magnum Miraculum", are some of the best writing I have had the privilege to read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
John Banville's 'Dr Copernicus' dramatises the mystery surrounding the life and work of this epoch-making scientist: why did he not publish his demolition of Ptolomey's theory of an Earth-centred cosmos in his own lifetime? Did he hesitate to place the Sun in the centre from fear of the Inquisition or from a realization that he was overturning a view of the world which his civilisation had held dear for 1,500 years? This novel doesn't give any easy answers; it dramatises the conflicts within Copernicus: priest or scientist, Pole or German (or neither), Catholic or Reformist, hetero- or bi-sexual, Medieval or Modern. There are no answers because Copernicus is a man who, in this imaginative reconstruction, stands on the border between all these conditions and is and remains ambiguous and mysterious. John Banville began writing about science and the scientific life in the '70s before the recent avalanche of popular science books. Readers who enjoyed 'Longitude' or its imitators might seek out this more biographic and dramatic approach to the question, 'what is it like to make a major scientific discovery?' But why not forget about all that and plunge into Banville's beautiful and astringent prose. I cannot remember how many times I have read this book, perhaps four or five? In any case, whenever I pick it up again, I appreciate once more the subtleties of its vortex-like plot, the superb characterisation not only of the misanthropic Doctor but also of his awe-struck and envious colleagues, the beauty of its descriptions of the Baltic and Italy. Read it and then read Banville's follow-up 'Kepler' which carries forward the bizarre story of the birth of modern astronomy.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Copernicus, so famous for his revelations about the workings of the universe, is vividly brought into three dimensions in this post-modern 'faction' biography. Banville's language is so beautiful and so charged it fascinates the reader from the outset, and his story thrillingly develops as the fragile astronomer struggles to be heard and accepted against a tide of scorn and a manipulative family. Although the story of Copernicus can be found elsewhere, this book sculpts him and his surroundings into the deeply feeling and thinking individual we can only hope he was, more than any other account ever could. Banville's novel is constructed to perfection; keeping the reader guessing and hoping with every step. My senses were switched on by this book, and I would recommend it to anyone in search of the definitive meaning of life, love history and language. I loved it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great novel but flawed Kindle edition 26 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As others have said, this is a wonderful and absorbing novel. The Economist review quoted is precisely right: it is firmly rooted both in the age it deals with and in the one in which it was written. It operates successfully on a number of different levels, most impressively as a fiercely intelligent investigation of the nature of knowledge and the origins of the systematic forms of knowledge that we now call science. As such it is informed both by a deep historical understanding of its period, and by the debates around the history of science at the time it was written, in particular the work of Thomas Kuhn. At the same time it works wonderfully as a narrative, as a study of character and as an evocation of historical context and events: for example, the acerbic contrast drawn between declining Renaissance Italy and the northern Europe of impending Reformation is just brilliant. An enthralling read which justifies the existence of the historical novel. A pity then that in preparing the Kindle edition the publishers couldn't make the notes at the end link to the relevant text, instead of to some random place in the book.
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